NFL Players Association files appeal for Tom Brady’s suspension for role in ‘deflategate’

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(CNN) — [Breaking news update, posted at 3:57 p.m. ET Thursday]

An appeal has been filed on behalf of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, the NFL Players Association said Thursday. The appeal comes after the National Football League suspended Brady for four games without pay after an independent investigation found the Patriots used underinflated footballs for an advantage in last season’s AFC Championship game.

[Previous story, posted at 1:41 p.m. ET Thursday]

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has until the end of Thursday to appeal his “Deflategate” suspension.

An appeal would be no surprise. All signs point to it.

His agent, Don Yee, promised one on Monday when the National Football League suspended Brady for four games without pay after an independent investigation found the Patriots used underinflated footballs for an advantage in last season’s NFL playoffs.

The team was fined $1 million and will forfeit its first-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft and its fourth-round pick in the 2017 draft, the league said Monday.

“The discipline is ridiculous and has no legitimate basis,” Yee said in a statement.

“In my opinion, this outcome was predetermined; there was no fairness in the … investigation whatsoever,” he said. “There is no evidence that Tom directed footballs be set at pressures below the allowable limits.”

The NFL Players Association told CNN Sports that it will represent Brady in his appeal.

Brady has until 11:59 p.m. ET Thursday to file his appeal letter, NFLPA communications manager Jilane Rodgers said.

Any appeal hearing will begin within 10 days of the league’s receipt of his appeal. Brady’s appeal would be heard by either NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or an officer of his choosing.

The team

The Patriots are standing by their quarterback, calling the discipline one-sided.

“Tom Brady has our unconditional support,” the team said. “Our belief in him has not wavered.”

In its official response Monday, the organization said it continues to deny tampering with the balls, but was willing to face any discipline handed down. But the team and Robert Kraft, Patriots chairman and CEO, said the sanctions announced by the NFL “far exceeded any reasonable expectation.”

Later in the week, an attorney for the Patriots published an extensive online rebuttal of the NFL’s finding in the case.

The rebuttal by Daniel L. Goldberg asserts, among other things, that the NFL’s report inappropriately dismissed scientific explanations as to why Patriots’ footballs would have naturally lost air during the January 18 AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts. The Patriots beat the Colts 45-7 en route to a Super Bowl XLIX victory.

The investigation

The punishment, announced Monday, comes after last week’s release of a report by attorney Ted Wells, whom the league hired to investigate the incident.

The investigation was initiated to determine what was behind the Patriots’ use of underinflated footballs during the AFC title game.

The Wells report found that “it is more probable than not” that Brady was “at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities” of locker room attendant Jim McNally and equipment assistant John Jastremski.

Jastremski has been with the team for 14 years, the past three as the staffer in charge of preparation of the game-day footballs.

In a letter to Brady, NFL Executive President Troy Vincent said the quarterback’s actions were detrimental to the integrity of the sport.

“Each player, no matter how accomplished and otherwise respected, has an obligation to comply with the rules and must be held accountable for his actions when those rules are violated and the public’s confidence in the game is called into question,” Vincent wrote.

The 243-page Wells report said Brady, who answered questions from investigators over the course of one day, did not turn over personal information such as texts and emails. Furthermore, the report doubted the quarterback’s assertion that he didn’t know the name of McNally, the part-time Patriots employee who investigators think most likely improperly deflated footballs just before the team faced off in January’s AFC Championship game.

The punishment

As it stands, Brady will be suspended for the first four regular season games of 2015 but can participate in training camp and other activities, including preseason games.

Jastremski and McNally, who have been indefinitely suspended without pay since May 6, cannot be reinstated without NFL approval, the league said.

If the men are reinstated, they will be prohibited from certain duties, such as managing the locker room or overseeing preparation of the game footballs.

Goodell said the punishment is in line with the findings of the report.

“We relied on the critical importance of protecting the integrity of the game and the thoroughness and independence of the Wells report,” he said.

In announcing the penalties, the NFL also noted that the report did not find evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the coaching staff.

In the report, no one said the quarterback tampered with the balls himself. The evidence implicating him comes from texts involving and interviews with McNally and Jastremski.

The NFL took into account that Brady declined to turn over texts and other evidence to investigators.

Yee told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the quarterback didn’t agree to hand over text messages because that would set a bad precedent for other players involved in disciplinary investigations.

The online rebuttal written by Goldberg, the Patriots’ attorney, asserts that McNally’s and Jastremski’s texts display nothing more than attempts at humor, and that the Wells report misinterprets them as references to a plot to deflate footballs.

The reaction

Reaction on social media has been brutal, much of it focusing on how the NFL has handled cases of players accused of domestic abuse.

In a Boston Globe editorial cartoon, the newspaper skewers the league for doling out lesser punishment for more serious matters.

“Four games?” exclaims a man reading the headline about Brady’s suspension.

“If he’d deflated the footballs by punching them in an elevator, it would only be two,” retorts a woman across the table.

It’s a reference to Ray Rice, the former Baltimore Ravens running back, who was cut by the team after a video showed him punching his then-fiancee and current wife, Janay Rice, at a casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He was initially suspended for two games by the league.

“Suspend Brady. Go ahead,” tweeted Mike Wise, a senior writer for ESPN. “But you know a worse integrity problem? A commissioner displaying willful ignorance during a domestic violence case”

Goodell was also in the cross hairs of Lily Pearsall.

“If only NFL players that beat their wives got as big a punishment as Brady did for deflating some footballs #DeflateGate,” Pearsall said on Twitter.

CNN’s Greg Botelho, Mariano Castillo, Wayne Sterling and Quand Thomas contributed to this report.